So many of us have grown in households where “negative” emotions like sadness and anger were frowned upon. We weren’t allowed to express those emotions, and overtime, we learned to suppress them in order to be accepted and to avoid being reprimanded. However, I’ve learned in my journey that working with these very emotions is what brings us true freedom. And today, a wonderful writer, Brianna shares how working with anger can actually help your spiritual growth. Here’s what she shares.
As people begin the spiritual awakening process, there can be a tendency to gloss over negative emotions for fear that they will prevent progress. Spiritual people are typically more sensitive, aware, and motivated to behave in a conscious manner. For this reason, they can struggle to know what to do with anger, frustration, and resentment, and they avoid working with anger in their spiritual journey.
For example, we know that expressing anger at other people is not healthy. It can be a form of projection or deflection that prevents us from truly taking responsibility for ourselves.
It can often seem like a better idea to just try to calm down or forget about angry feelings. But this insidious tendency can lead to major problems down the line.
Essentially, we become suppressors of our own anger, dis-identifying with it altogether. From this place, anger has an opportunity to fester until one day we explode at someone, become passive-aggressive, or turn that fired-up rage in on ourselves.
Thankfully, there’s a better way.
How Anger Can Help Your Growth in the Spiritual Journey
The first and most important thing to understand is that anger is always about boundaries. And not just boundaries, but overstepped boundaries. Basically, anger is a mechanism that arises in all of us when we feel we have encountered something threatening; whether it’s an idea, a person, or a situation that feels unfair.
In other words, your anger is a self-preservation mechanism. It exists to say, “Hey! This isn’t ok! We do not accept this!”
Here is an example: You are having a conversation with someone who keeps talking over you. You know they’re probably not doing it on purpose, but eventually, annoyance turns to anger. You think, “they must not value my perspective.”
This may trigger a pre-existing wound, such as feeling like you don’t belong. As you perceive this threat, you will automatically want to defend yourself and re-establish the boundary you feel has been crossed.
Interestingly, as you work through lower emotions like shame and guilt, you will begin to feel better. This is when you are most likely to start encountering more anger because you are no longer stuck in a mode of powerlessness & low self-esteem.
What Happens When We Suppress Anger?
When we suppress, ignore, or gloss over anger, we get stuck in a loop that prevents our spiritual development. For example, you may start to feel anger, but then stop yourself and feel guilty for feeling angry.
Later on, you may become angry again at the same unresolved issue, but again try to stop yourself and repeat the same thing. This puts you in a loop of bumping up against anger but never quite dealing with it.
Channeling Anger Instead of Abusing with It
As you start working with anger in the spiritual journey, it’s important to remember that angry people don’t have to be abusive. We often associate anger with people who are abusive and irresponsible.
But when you feel anger, you don’t have to yell, fight with people, or blame others for what is happening. Similarly, you don’t have to lie and pretend everything is fine when it’s not. The misalignment with our emotions is what makes us inauthentic and sabotages relationships.
Instead, there is a third option: channeling anger.
Learning to channel anger can be an uncomfortable process, as many of us were taught as children that anger is not acceptable. You may be surprised how hard it is for you to really get in touch with your anger.
For example, you might sit down and try to write out your angry thoughts, but you notice you are censoring yourself. Or you might feel frustrated like you want to punch a pillow, but you hold back and feel silly for having such emotions. A big part of working with anger in the spiritual journey is accepting that channeling it is not only ok, but necessary for personal growth.
The First Stage of Empowerment
Still feeling a little icky about your anger? Here’s another idea that will help: Anger is actually the first stage of empowerment. In our culture, we often think of anger as a sign we are doing something wrong or failing in life. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Anger often comes about when we are breaking through our conditioning and accessing new levels of awareness. Suddenly, you may find that you are able to stand up for yourself in situations where you used to get bullied or mistreated. By no stretch is this an unhealthy behaviour, but a sign that you are moving toward empowerment. Of course, anger is not an emotional state that we want to linger in, but it is a state that we want to let ourselves pass through.
Anger Wants Action
Do you notice anger come up repeatedly in certain situations? Do you struggle to know how to resolve the situation without lashing out or suppressing your anger to please other people?
One critical thing to keep in mind is this: Anger wants you to take a new action. Your anger needs you to change something in your life because your boundaries are being overstepped.
The first thing we need to ask ourselves when anger keeps coming up is: What change are you avoiding?
What part of you feels stepped on and why?
Is someone else doing it, or are you doing it to yourself? (Keep in mind, you can overstep your own boundaries!)
As we start to weed through the messy, often-intimidating territory of our inner world, we find things out about ourselves that we never knew before. This awareness gives rise to new ideas, new strategies for getting our needs met, and the opportunity to slowly graduate from anger into true self-empowerment.
If you continue working with anger in the spiritual journey as a friend and not resisting it like a foe, you’ll find that one day, you simply don’t need it anymore 😉